Saturday, April 30, 2011

Camtasia vs CamStudio

One thing I have learned about taking courses, don't get behind, it may take forever to get caught up. So it has happened to me this semester and I am trying so hard to get back on track, but it is not easy.

So this was an assignment from earlier in the semester and I put off the assignment because I had laryngitis and sounded horrible and the assignment called for narrating a screen with the software Camtasia by TechSmith (With Camtasia for Mac’s flexible recording options, you can choose to capture full screen, window or region. Add in music tracks, microphone, your computer's audio, plus picture-in-picture with your video camera, and you've got a world-class screencast.) Once we used the software we needed to compare it with CamStudio, a free open source software (CamStudio is able to record all screen and audio activity on your computer and create industry-standard AVI video files and using its built-in SWF Producer can turn those AVIs into lean, mean, bandwidth-friendly Streaming Flash videos. It is only for a Windows operating system). Camtasia is available for both Windows and Mac, but it is not free. You can however download a 30 day trial version to test out before you purchase the software and they offer educational discounts.

Since I am such a fan of the Mac, Camtasia won me over on that point alone. When it comes to ease of use, it also won hands down. It does take some time to learn all of the editing features but it makes a really professional looking video. It took several attempts to get the background audio loud enough to hear it, but still soft enough not to be distracting. It also takes time to get the zooming feature to work, but once you do that is a very nice feature that really adds to your presentation. It is so much more user friendly than CamStudio, and it should be since you have to pay for the software. There is some open source software I love such as Audacity, and others that I would just prefer not to use such as CamStudio, but it is a decision an individual has to make for themselves, depending upon their preferences and bank accounts.

I wanted to create a video that would show faculty in our department how to use our test scanner and software and it turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought. I need at a later date to edit this project and include external video of the scantrons going through the scanner to sufficiently demonstrate the product, but it does give a person the knowledge to get started and that was the point of the assignment. I hope to be using this technology in the near future to create more educational products. I am embedding my presentation in this blog, so feel free to view it and leave me feedback. :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Online Bookmarking

So I already set up a delicious account a few years ago and so I just needed to create a diigo account. Both sites have the ability to bring in current bookmarks, but before I did, I spent some time organizing and cleaning up my bookmarks.

So even though I have had an account on delicious, I never really used it. I much prefer to use the bookmarking feature in my browser. I have arranged the folders in a system that works for me, and I can access them easily. Since I use google chrome with an igoogle account, I can sync the bookmarks between computers and access them on my android phone, so that works for me. On Safari, I can sync with my mobile me account. Since I am not in a position currently that I need to share my bookmarks, I am really not using that feature.

I do find myself saving sites that I come across in educational technology blogs, so that when I do have an opportunity to use them, I have compiled many sites that could be used for educational technology purposes. Here lately, it has really grown, so I need to do a better job of organizing them. If I was using a bookmarking service, I could use different tags to help organize them. Whereas with my browser, the only real organizing is folders, and that works great for me, since all my files on my computer are organized that way, and I am used to that system.

I did notice that when I was on diigo, when I looked at the premium services, there is a free education service that you can sign up for that lets you add groups and share your bookmarks. It also has a teacher console that can be added to your tools. I signed up, but have not received my approval yet. Wikispaces also has free upgraded accounts for education and it takes a few days for verification, but did receive those free accounts.

Diigo does have more features, so if I needed to choose a site for educational purpose, I would choose to use diigo. The only thing I don't like, and maybe I just could not find how to change the sort, but it sorted by date putting newest items first. I might want to sort in a different order, and I wish it was more like my bookmark manager in my browser, I can move just by dropping and dragging.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Second Life

So I visited Second Life again, I had been assigned this project before, so I once again ventured into this 3D virtual world, and I have to admit, it still had no appeal for me. In the photo to the left I am sitting near my favorite feature in Selmo Park, the waterfall. I love the water falling, there is a rainbow and a campfire. I feel very calm here, although I will admit the first time I came to the area, I overshot the ground and fell into the middle of the water and it took me a while to figure out how to "fly out", this visit I did better at walking and flying around.

There were some upgrades with this version but I am not really sure they are "upgrades." I started in the basic version and as I was playing around I found an option to change my Avatar, so I tried it thinking that I could then customize the avatar, but you cannot do this in the in the basic mode. So I quit so I could log in to the advance mode. So I thought I could make changes to my avatar and it had changed so much from the first visit, I just made a couple of changes and gave up, it was just too much work.

I have attended meetings in this virtual world and it is a nice environment for meetings, but it can also be frustrating if some people are typing and some people are talking. Plus I found it difficult to maneuver to different rooms and work in the small groups with complete strangers. Myself personally, I would much rather go to a Webinar than meet in a virtual world. It just feels unnatural to me, but I do not come from a "gamer" generation, I just never liked them. When I was in school D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) was around, and I tried it once, but just was not for me and Second Life reminds me of D&D, where you have to create this character and you are not really yourself. It's like the names in Second Life, you just can't use your own (or if you can, I couldn't figure that out) so when I went to log in it took quite a while because I could not remember how to spell my last name (Imaging Iadyl) but the capital I in Second Life looks like an L, so I kept spelling it wrong. I would rather just use my name (I have enough user names and passwords to keep track of as it is).

Mitch Wagner wrote a review and he stated that "It's the closest thing we have now to Star Trek's holodeck." I think that is so true, it is extremely futuristic: flying, morphing and teleporting. But if you are into that sort of thing, it is very appealing. He also said that there was a lot of hype in 2006-7 that this would be bigger than the internet, which did not happen, however it does have a loyal fan base of about 680,000 active users. I have subscribed to the Edtech Community and get notices about events, but usually don't have time to attend because I have so many other things that I have to do. Maybe if I could just take my time with it and it not be an assignment, there would not be near the frustration that I have experienced.

Wagner went on to report that with the recent upgrades, there is hope that Second Life could achieve Facebook popularity. I think it will have to get a lot more simpler before it will achieve that level of popularity. I do think that the announcement of Second Life Enterprise would allow businesses to purchase their own private virtual worlds that they can run behind their own firewall. Again, I would rather invest in video conferencing and actually see a real person than train in a virtual world.

Initially the K-12 educational environment was not eligible for Second Life (originally must be at least 18), so there was Teen Second Life. According to Global Kids' Online Leadership Program, Teen Second Life was merged with the adult version and now students as young as 13 can sign up but with limited access and they have to be sponsored by a "Sponsoring Organization" and individuals 16-17 can have an account but are limited to islands with a General Rating and are not allowed to visit the more mature sites. I am really on the fence about these changes, there is a lot of mature content and mature conversations that I have come across and I don't know if it is the best decision. However, it is like anything else, it requires supervision. Kids can get to a lot of mature content outside of a virtual world, but with its surreal interface I worry if the line between online predators is blurred because of its role playing environment. Really need to read the Terms of Service carefully.

Also to really use this environment it requires a pretty sophisticated computer with a newer graphic card and extra ram, otherwise it just takes too long to build the world and operate in the environment. I was having problems with the new viewer on my Mac, had to restart my computer a few times and a few of the menu items cause my system to crash.

I really believe though that everyone needs to decide for themselves how to best use this in an educational setting. If you have a young, adventurous audience it may really hold their attention and they may learn more than a traditional setting. I would not totally right it off, but I would need that particular audience to make it work.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mobile Technology

I am a huge fan of mobile technology that began when I purchased my first video iPod and my love has only grown as the technology has grown. I am writing this blog on an iPad with the on screen keyboard ( landscape mode with two hands, I also have a bluetooth keyboard and an accessory keyboard). I don't type as quickly as an external keyboard but I can work very quickly. On my iPod touch and my phone which is a MyTouch 4G, it is a lot harder to type, so I use a lot more voice commands. It takes lots of patience for the software to understand your voice, but over time it gets easier. So I try to use my devices by their strengths.

So the iPad is awesome for tasks that do not require a lot of input, for viewing and reading. My iPad does not have 3G, so I need to have Wifi for some features. But one thing I need to make clear from the onset, it is a device that works in conjunction with your computer, it is not really a stand alone product. It needs to be synced with a computer to set up and to transfer files. It does not have a large hard drive, so all archiving must be done on the primary computer. This can be accomplished through a wired or wireless connection. So if I have a wireless connection I can download directly to my device and then transfer it to my computer during the sync process, this is how you manage your device, it does not replace your computer but rather is used in conjunction with your computer. The iPad and iPod use iTunes to organize and manage the devices, what many may not know is that even though all your applications are also archived through iTunes, the applications cannot be used on your computer, they are only on the devices. So it is actually very slick marketing to get you to purchase additional hardware and software beyond your computer. So would you need an iPad if you had a laptop? Yes, because many applications only work on the devices, however, if you don't need the applications, then you can just get by with a computer and you can find similar applications and websites that can provide you with many of the tools, but not all.

So if you keep your devices in sync and managed, you can definitely travel with the iPad. It is lighter, more compact, longer battery life and much cooler. I have a MacBook Pro and in about 30 minutes of use it is too hot to sit on my lap comfortably. I also think it is easier to read on my mobile devices, so I much prefer them if I have to do a lot of electronic reading. And iBook is a wonderful electronic reader, it keeps your place (without dog earring the pages). You can highlight text and make notes and you can copy and paste text into documents. I really like reading on my phone because the text width is just right for my eyes to follow easily. The text is formatted to fit the screen, I just experience less eye fatigue, even though I have to use reading glasses. And because it is handheld I can get it at the right distance, which cannot be done easily with my computer. As we become paperless, these devices, I believe will become a necessity in the near future. I can even show coupons on my phone at the register.

Because these devices do not operate exactly like a computer, it requires more wireless technology to transfer files. I use the iPad to take notes at our department meetings. What I usually do is take the agenda and edit that file for the minutes. Now my boss generates the agenda and emails it to me. To get it on the iPad, I can send it to my email, save it to my mobile me, iwork, google docs or Evernote (and since I have discovered that app, it has become my app of choice, it is on all my devices and it takes just a few moments to view my files. I have even upgraded to the premium versions. I make shopping lists on my computer and then view them on my phone when I get to the store, since my phone has mobile Internet when I am away from wifi, although many businesses are providing free wifi.) I can then open the file with pages (paid app, but so worth the price) and type like any word processing application. However, the iPad version does not have all the features that are on my desktop, but it does a wonderful job. Now I do not type on the onscreen keyboard, I need to type faster than the onscreen keyboard allows, so I use an external keyboard that has more keys like tabs and arrows. But I can also create files with the applications on the iPad and it is great to use because I can take it anywhere, outside at a park, or any place quiet that allows me to think and be creative. It is lightweight and easy to carry, it never feels cumbersome or awkward. To get the files to my computer I can sync or I can send it to anyone of my file servers. I don't like emailing documents, there can just be too many versions, I so prefer to share via a server.

So since I am not in a classroom, I am going to share how I would like to use the devices in education. There are so many applications that help you study, I use an application that helps me with my medical terminology class. It has most words installed and I can create flashcards for each chapter. It also has a hangman game. In fact there are many applications to help students who are going into health related fields, and if you have ever seen or carried a science textbook, an electronic version is so much easier to keep with you (and your back will thank you). There are free apps, but the best ones charge a fee, but they are so worth the price and considering that science texts costs hundreds, it is a bargain. Plus you have them after the class so they are available for constant reference and studying for admission exams as well as board/license exams. And if you are working in the field, it is a great tool to keep with you when you need to refresh yourself when you are trying to understand someone's symptoms. And there are many free dictionary and reference apps that you can keep on your devices so when you are working you can look things up on different devices so that you don't have to bounce between windows. My kids use there phones to help with homework when they are at the table, and it is much easier to search than trying to remember where they put their dictionary.

Audible is an audio book service and besides reading my text in medical terminology, I also listen to the audio files. Since this course does not have a lecture portion, it is very important to hear the terms pronounced correctly. Plus I listen to the files when I can't read. Also at the end of the chapter it asks you questions that helps you practice for the exams. I can also listen to them as many times as I need. Every time the textbook reps are on campus I ask them about audio files to accompany their books. Especially for students who commute, they can listen and learn while they drive, or when they are having lunch or working out. And younger kids sometimes have long bus rides and it can sometimes be too noisy to read, but it is nice to put in some headphones and listen and instead of music it could be a book. And for athletes that have to travel and it is too dark too read, instead of losing that time, it could be used to do school work. There are many free apps that will make mp3 files of text documents. So it doesn't have to be your text, it can be articles that you need for assignments and research.

On this topic of audio files, I have a smarten that records audio while I am taking notes, so with the professors permission, I can record and listen to the lecture as many times as I need. The audio even syncs with my notes, so I just have to tap the page and I can hear what was said at that moment. At the lower grades, a teacher could record instructions on how to complete an assignment or a problem and when the student is working, they can listen to the instructions as many times as they need, without disturbing anyone around them. Parents can also listen so they can help their kids. Files can be hosted on a server and then loaded on these mobile devices, then help can be tailored to the needs of the student. Check out Livescribe for more information.

Another app that myself and kids really like is Ibird. This is an electronic field guide that gives you descriptions of birds to help you identify what you are seeing and hearing. When we are in Florida I love photographing birds, but then I want to know what they are, so I use this to help me identify the species and learn more about them. What is also great is there is an audio file of their calls. So even if you are not a naturalist you can use these guides to help you and your students in the field, which is great for field trips. And there are many guides, not just birds (plants, mammals, trees, insects, butterflies and more). And since you can carry many guides on one portable device it is practical and easy to use and remember to take with you.

YouTube video has some ads you have to watch but it shows you how to use the field guides. ( I had to link to the video because iPad YouTube app does not give you embed code, the only way to share is to send the link, it does not have those other options that can be found when using a computer browser, so if you want to embed video, don't publish from iPad. Or if you know something I don't, please let me know).

So I have went on long enough, sorry if my enthusiasm has been a little long winded, but this is technology that is affordable and if you can begin using it, you will probably be just as excited as I am.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Hazel Hill,United States

Monday, March 21, 2011

Playing around in Moodle and Blackboard Course Management

So since I am very familiar with blackboard as a student and course administrator, I spent more time trying to figure out Moodle. I found it very frustrating and I missed the module set up of Blackboard. With BB's compact display, I did not have to scroll as much to get were I needed to go and I like it personally when I don't have to spend so much time scrolling to get to where I want. I didn't like if I used Moodle docs that it took me to a different site and it didn't open up in a new window, so I had to use the browser buttons to navigate the site.

Of course, if I used it all the time I would become familiar with the features and it would be second nature. I know at the University, there is lots of support and training for using Blackboard and I wonder if the same is true for Moodle and that a whole school district could adopt it for its course management system. According to their site you can, but I would worry about server connectivity, back up and help for the manager as well as the student. And even though you have to pay for Blackboard, I believe there is more support for all the users. Now mind you, this is based on limited use by my part, but I did read many reviews about both systems.

I could see how Moodle would be great for using with perhaps personal groups like a book club, a 4H group or perhaps even a athletic team. This would be a great way to post information for everyone and disseminate information in an effective way that didn't require a lot of paper, really be green and keep things digital. Of course that means that all members have to have internet access and we have to keep in mind that even though it seems everywhere, not everyone still has it at home. (I even know a few professors that are too cheap to have it at home, if you can believe that).

Overall, course management for a course needs to be determined by the school so that there is consistency and then there needs to be support for whatever system. If it is at a personal level, I could really take advantage of an open source site like Moodle and its affordability, and I do have enrollment in some personal educational sites that are really helpful.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I am in love with my Smart Phone

So my first mobile phone was a bag phone that stayed in my car and was mainly there for emergency purposes, phones have come a long way since then. Now they are these mobile pocket computers. I can still make phone calls, but I can do so much more. I can keep a calendar, read my email, search the web, find a local restaurant and get directions, scan bar codes to compare prices and now with evernote I can read files from my phone.

So now I carry my desktop with me in my purse, and what I find really amazing, I like reading on my phone better than my computer. Most sites and apps adapt the width and size of text to optimize it for reading. It is so easy to read, I find myself waiting to read things on my phone. Recently my daughter has required many trips to the doctor and Children's Mercy, so I have had a lot of time in waiting rooms and car trips (my husband drives so I can study) and my phone has been incredible. I can hardly wait until Warrensburg gets high speed internet, pages load so quickly when we are in the city. Of course, if I am in a wifi zone, it is awesome.

It also has an incredible camera and video. I used to carry a separate point-n-shoot camera, but now I don't have to because my phone does such an incredible job. And if we think about it, so many news outlets now depend on eye witness accounts taken with phone video. And even though I don't have an iPhone, my android phone is just as awesome, and in a way I am glad I am learning that operating system, since I have an iPod touch and iPad.

So if we embrace this technology and teach our students to use it for more than just texting, there is a world of educational possibilities. There is even a site called Wiffiti that lets you send text to a cite that can then be displayed, what a way to bring technology into the classroom and let students use this powerful tool they have in their pocket.